Well, this was a weird one! Set in what was presumably once a cow shed of the rural Hendre Hall, but is now a fantastic spacious stone building (and tea rooms!), this was undoubtedly the strangest venue Iíve seen a gig at. There was an enormous stove on one wall. In fact, it made me think that everyone should have brought sleeping bags with them and spent the night sleeping on the floor. Though, there are probably witches out there...
Yes, it had that sort of feel to it. Also, at one end of the room, there was a small stage with additional percussive instruments on the floor in front of it. There were also two large metal bowls underneath some drums. "Theyíre filled with water", said my mate Ian. "Oh dear", I thought, "I donít want to be there the night one of Faust got electrocuted."
Anyway, what about the gig? Support act Ectogram were already on when I arrived. I wasnít sure what to make of them at first, but they played at least two numbers that I liked, with the clattery percussion that was slightly changing, yet staying the same, if that makes sense, being a highlight for me. Iíd not heard them before, but they impressed me enough to buy a CD later.
As for Faust, I wouldnít class myself as a fan by any means. In fact, Iíve got more ELO albums than I have Faust, and Iíve only got one by those Brummie Beatle clones. And I havenít heard Faust for more than 20 years since the said Ian played Faust IV for us, so we could all hear how Joy Division had ripped Atmosphere off them. But Iíd regretted not seeing them when they played my home-town in the 90s, and I always feel that theyíre a band Iím going to explore at some point. And so, when I unexpectedly got my hands on two tickets last minute, it seemed like fate that I was going.
So what were they like? Well, Faust came on and played a superb lengthy Krautrock instrumental that had real power and a Stones-like swagger. It truly was excellent, and I thought we were going to get a more straightahead evening with a four-piece rock band than the avante garde one that the venue seemed to suggest.
After this Germanic take on Brown Sugar, it was madness all the way. The buckets of water were thrown over the floor by singer Jean-Hervť Peron whilst the drummer, Zappi Diermaier threw metal poles about. They didnít half bounce on the stone floor, and standing at the front suddenly seemed like a bad idea. In fact, I think one lad nearby got one to the legs.
It was the water that was the scarier proposition though. Iím not the most technically minded mofo, but I do know that water and electric are a worse combination than Dido and microphone. I found myself desperately trying to cast my mind back to the last time I did a First Aid course with the question "What do you do with electric shocks?" repeatedly running through my head. After all, the guy was splashing with one hand whilst holding a mic in the other! Another friend then revealed himself to be the coolest member of the audience by barely acknowledging any recognition that Peron had ventured past him, and was tenderly stroking the guy next to him, who happened to be Ectogramís drummer. Nothing unusual in that of course: watching small, hairy Krautrock legends stroking a drummer barely a foot away from you is a daily occurrence in my mate's world!
It was around about this point that I turned to my mate Ian, and said, "Weíll be talking about this one for years to come." He grinned and nodded, as there was much more to come. Peron grinned manically and shouted at the same German phrase - "rund ist schoen" ("round is beautiful" apparently) - for ages. Then there were four drummers suddenly walking through the audience from the back of the room, and Diermaier making percussive noises by using an electric circular saw on the piece of metal that was on the floor just where all the water was. I shouldnít have worried. It all passed without tragedy and, anyway, my mate Ian reminded me after the gig that he had done nursing training many years ago. So I could, of course, just have left it to him.
I was less keen on a couple of the more acoustic numbers, though even these had their moments, and one tinkly acoustic instrumental had moments of real beauty. They ended with a superb relentless thrash that was disappointing in that having built to this amazing crescendo they didnít hold it there for a further ten minutes. But I guess I was just being greedy by then, because it really was an excellent closer. Peron thanked everyone involved Ė the owner of the venue, the stage manager, whoever had made their tea (I promise Iím not making this up!), and lots more folk. Then he welcomed back Ectogram, so that both bands could join together for a version of Jíai Mal Aux Dents, and thrash and shout away without a care in the world. A suitably anarchic ending for a mad, bonkers Ė and lets not forget this Ė FUN evening. Peron then walked into towards the crowd, shook hands with me, grabbed one of my arms quite tightly, and then walked off. I felt strangely honoured as I belatedly said "Ouch" to my mate.
I purchased the first Faust album afterwards. Iíve now got as many Faust albums as ELO ones. It seems only right. After all, as I said earlier in the evening, weíll be talking about this gig for years to come...